Everyone envies the professional athlete. He has all that money, all that fame, all that talent.
With the minimum NFL salary being $325,000, and most players earning well more than that, you would think if there was ever a union suited for sitting it out, it would be the NFL Players Association. Those guys have plenty of money, right? They can afford to miss a season if they have to. Right?
According to SI.com, "By the time they have been retired for two years, 78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce."
Should we really be so surprised, though? The story of the instant millionaire is often a sad one. How many times have we heard of lottery winners going broke, or worse? One day, this person is making twelve bucks an hour and struggling to make rent. The next, through no ingenuity or skill of his own, based on the random selection of numbers, he holds in his hand a check for seven figures or more.
That money becomes the hot potato. What to do with it?
Why, invest it, of course!
OK, but where? How? With whom? Here's a guy that couldn't figure out how to save twenty bucks a week for a rainy day and now he has to make a wise investment with his millions?
Good luck with that.
How many NFL players were coddled through high school and then guided in college towards classes they could easily pass? How many of them graduated or left school early and could barely fill out a job application? Maybe not as many as you think, but certainly more than is acceptable.
Even the brightest athletes, however, may never have been in a situation where money management and investment was a major concern.
Add that to the fact that most of them get the biggest paycheck of their life when they are in their early twenties. Then, it is time to party like a rock star or live the rapper's dream. Go to the strip club and "make it rain." Drop a couple grand on a dinner for your hot date. Buy that Maserati and the $20 million crib.
Jeremi Duru of Yahoo Sports writes the following concerning professional athletes whose finances fail them:
People making such outrageous salaries have no excuse for quickly going broke, but they do have explanations, which tend to include some form of the following: “I didn’t think it would end so soon, and when it ended I wasn’t prepared.” Some never save a thing, and their last paychecks are spent before they get them. Others accumulate some savings but watch it disappear when their NFL income streams dry up. Still others lose huge sums of money to risky investments about which they might have thought twice had they known their time in the NFL was almost done.
In this month alone Saints alltime leading rusher Deuce McAllister filed for bankruptcy protection for the Jackson, Miss., car dealership he owns; Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad put his mansion in Charlotte up for sale on eBay a month after news broke that his entertainment company was being sued by Wachovia Bank for overdue credit-card payments; and penniless former NFL running back Travis Henry was jailed for nonpayment of child support.
On the other side of the bargaining table sit the owners. Billionaires, every one of them. Men who live in the harsh reality of the financial world every day. Men who understand investment and risk/reward. Men who have decided that they would welcome a lockout before they would continue with the status quo of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Men who will still share television revenue amongst themselves, even if there is no game to televise. Masters of the universe. Keepers of the most popular game in America.
Which side do you think is best prepared to weather the storm?
Sure, the players can say, "Without us, they have no game."
But the owners can say, "Without us, you can play all you want—you just won't get paid for it."
Meanwhile, the avid football fan that works his fingers to the bloody nub to keep the wolf from his front door tries to forget it is really his money, his paltry pittance and the pittance of tens of millions like him, they are fighting over. And he will. He will ignore that nagging voice that proclaims him a fool for being so invested in these men in costume, these men who might not spit in his mouth even if his guts were on fire, these men who greedily grab for one dollar more while he doesn't have two dimes to rub together.
The fans will forget their anger and return. The players will concede when the pressure gets turned up by the hundreds among facing impending disaster. The fat cats will win. They almost always do. That is why they write the checks and the rest of us just cash and spend them.
But, I hope I am wrong.